Friday, June 1, 2007

NCAA Baseball Preview: Friday Games

If they actually get to play the games today, which seems to be getting less certain by the second--there were supposed to be major storms earlier in the week, but then they were supposed to come this evening, and now they're supposed to come late-morning--here's how I see them playing out.

2 Miami-FL vs 3 Louisville

I'm always one for talking myself into picking an upset. That's why my March Madness brackets always suck (okay, that's not totally true...I finished second in my pool four straight years...but in the words of philosopher Ricky Bobby, if you ain't first, you're last!). Louisville has a legitimate chance in this game, but only if they get on base...which, of course, is about as profound as saying they'll win if they score more runs. But while Miami is the big-name team in the region, Louisville has the tools that a mid-major team needs to make noise against the biggies. They stole an insane amount of bases--led by 3rd-team AA Boomer Whiting's 69 thefts--and they play an offensive style that you don't see often. They put a lot of pressure on a team's defense. If the Cards manufacture a couple of runs off of likely 'Cane starter Scott Maine (who has allowed a decent 1.32 baserunners per inning), then Louisville starter Zack Pitts (8-3, 1.78 ERA) and closer Trystan Magnuson (8 saves, 0.92 ERA) are good enough to make a lead stick.

However, who am I to bet against history? Louisville's playing in its 2nd NCAA Regional ever. Miami's playing in its 35th in a row. The NCAA introduced the Super Regional format nine years ago, and Miami's made the Super Regional every year. Streaks end at some point, but I don't make a habit out of picking against them. I'll say Miami 7, Louisville 3.

1 Missouri vs 4 Kent State

I've said I like upsets, and now if I pick Mizzou I'm picking chalk. But do you really think I'm going against my team right now? Kent State has strong pitching and a decent offense, but well, Mizzou's the 1-seed.

Overall, I'm quite torn about Mizzou's regional chances. They've lost all of two series this year, they don't swing at bad pitches, and they've got an insane record in close games (15-3 in games decided by 2 runs or less)...they just know how to win games. But stats always even out in the end, and is the fact that they've overachieved relative to their statistics (going by runs scored and allowed, they should have been about 36-20, not 40-16) a good thing at this point? Do the stats even out in the postseason, or does it wait till next year? Do the freshmen that have carried the Mizzou offense at times (Trevor Coleman, Aaron Senne) continue to come through? I'm really not sure. Obviously we'll find out as the weekend progresses, but for today I'm going to say Mizzou 6, Kent State 1.